Evaluation's Vital Role in Healthier School Meals

The Third School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study (SNDA-III) provides comprehensive, nationally representative data on school meals offered to and selected by the nation's schoolchildren. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is aiding the mission to bring school meals up to national dietary standards.

Progress is being made and challenges remain in refining the nutrient content of school meals. This brief, written by an undersecretary of the USDA, introduces a supplement to SNDA-III for the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The supplement puts forth an initial collection of reports on SNDA-III with the expectation that the rich amount of data presented in the study will lead to further investigations.

USDA has already taken steps toward meeting the standards of the Dietary Guidelines For Americans 2005 by:

  • Asking the Institute of Medicine and the National Academies to recommend new school meal-pattern requirements;
  • Offering schools a wider range of healthful fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains; and
  • Developing and offering new educational materials that are based on dietary guidelines.

Nutrition science and research play a critical role in maintaining the effectiveness of the school meal programs. USDA continues to work with researchers and nutrition professionals to help school meal programs fulfill their potential.